Beautiful pool - new owner - help me keep it sparkling and fresh!

BenB

Gold Supporter
Jul 24, 2020
20
San Jose, CA
Hi everybody!

First of all, obligatory comment to say what an awesome community this looks to be. The information, guidance and 'keep it simple' approach are all fantastic and right up my street.

So, my wife and I just bought a house that has a pool, and a really very nice one at that. We're in San Jose, CA. The pool is a gunite salt pool, approximately 20,000 gallons (based on squared off actual width/length measurements we took, and average depths taken at either end and the middle).
ML81797233_33_1.jpgML81797233_34_1.jpgML81797233_39_1-crop.jpg

The pool guys say it's "their favorite pool on their route" and has always only required minimal maintenance from them, which I'm sure they say to all their owners, but who knows. With the exception of some tree fluff falling to the surface each day [probably coming to another thread in the near future - how to really accelerate the skimmer to pick up this stuff), the water is absolutely crystal clear (my frame of reference is that with still water I can clearly see the main drain 8ft down in the deep end, the textured surface, and the vacuum - would pictures help here or does that sound reasonable?).

So far, the only thing I have changed from what we inherited is I changed the timer to run the pump on low power from 9am to 6pm (with 30 minutes initial full power) to keep up chlorine production throughout the day when the sun is out, and swimming happens. The previous owners had been running the pump 4-6..30am and 6.30-9.30pm (and over half at full speed) which I thought strange given swimming and chlorine consumption happens in the daytime), and vacuum for 30 minutes each day 8.30-9am. The SWG (a Nature2 Fusion Soft) is currently set to 50%.

The day we picked up the keys I took a sample of water to the nearby Leslie's, and got these results. The water sample was taken at about midday:

FC 0.9
pH 8.4
TA 98
CH 649
CYA 24
Salt 2960
Phosphates high but who cares!

We are keeping the previous owners' pool service guys going for a month or two while I get used to things. They come weekly and have been adding acid and top-up liquid chlorine as needed based on that morning's results. They're only monitoring for pH and chlorine. I asked and sadly they have not heard of this site, although they did at least point out from the Leslie's results that the CYA could come up (but they didn't actually do it), and the phosphates could be ignored. Their methodology is entirely based on experience and feel. They also thought it was a 30K gallon pool so in a way I'm glad they weren't calculating dosages!

Last week, they recorded FC 5 and pH 8.2, and asked me to turn down the SWG from 100% to 50%.

They came again yesterday, and their test results taken at were 8am on 8/4 were:
FC 1
pH 8.2

They added liquid chlorine and acid.


Being the intrepid DIYer that I am, and based on the glowing recommendations on this forum, I acquired a TF-100 kit to get a more complete picture of the water chemistry. I also bought the salt and borates tests. The kit arrived today and I did some evening testing right before sunset:

Test taken at 7.30pm on 8/5:
FC 5.0 (both FAS-DPD and color swatch - by the way why do the instructions say the water will turn 'completely clear'? Mine went milky white in a single transition at 10 drops - 5 FC - and stayed there but never went actually transparent / clear as I would interpret those words)
CC 0
pH 7.5
CH 1250
CYA 22 (20 if I round off per the instructions)
Salt 3900
Borates 5 (not 0 but definitely not 10 from the swatch)

The two results that jump out at me are that the salt level, being 1000ppm higher than the Leslie's test result, and the CH which is almost exactly double the Leslie's result, and totally off the charts in terms of what the published 'acceptable' ranges are. Indeed, even at 649, the Leslie's automated 'recommendation' was to drain 1/3 of the pool water and replenish. For this one, while my CSI is fine, I am concerned at how high the level is from a long-term standpoint and would really appreciate input here.

Interestingly, the salt result I obtained matches the readout from the generator itself. I had doubted its accuracy (based also on comments read here saying that the system readouts are generally inaccurate) and assumed that Leslie's was right, but now it seems it was Leslie's is actually the outlier here. I assume that high salt levels can be brought down just through the passage of time and salt being used up by the SWG?

I have recorded all these into Pool Math (subscription purchased), and it is recommending adding:

4lbs 11oz of dry stabilizer to increase CYA to 50 (TFP target 70-80 but want to start low for fear of overshooting)
22lbs of borax (+ acid to maintain pH) to increase BOR to 20 (TFP target 30-50 but again wanting to undershoot to start)
Replacing 66% of water to reduce CH.

The pH today was just under the recommended 7.6-7.8, but I assume will naturally drift up over time like it does every week, so I will ignore the recommended 1lb borax to increase pH.

OK - so reading back that's a lot of information, but hopefully there are some useful nuggets in there. Any advice anybody can offer in terms of prioritizing any necessary changes would be fantastic.. Right now the pool looks incredible, so I don't want to tinker unnecessarily just for the sake of hitting some magical numbers, however the TFP recommended levels presumably exist for a reason, so moving towards them (in 2 batches perhaps to make sure I don't overshoot) would be my goal if the advice here is to do it. Advice on the timing would also be appreciated - I assume I can't just dump everything - acid, borax and CYA - into the pool all in one go, so which to start with etc. would be amazing. And that's ignoring the elephant in the room which is the really really high CH test result. Your thoughts on that one?

Thank you all again for your time looking out for us newbies! I really, really appreciate it!

Ben
 
Last edited:

Whiskeyfox

Well-known member
Jun 24, 2020
68
Houston, TX
I'm new and haven't tested my pool since it's not done, but did you make sure to test your water from elbow deep as well as making sure you're getting the test water from the appropriate place and not where the water comes out fresh from the SWG? I know that can impact your salt levels, and that people stress taking a proper sample.
 
  • Like
Reactions: BenB

cowboycasey

Gold Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 3, 2013
4,014
Fletcher, OK
Welcome to TFP :)

Congrats on getting the TF100, it really is a great kit...

1. Take the Nature2 Fusion Soft cartridge out and never put it back in... It is adding metals to your water and you never want that.... I am not sure if you can run with it out so you may have to leave it connected just don't replace it with a new one.... :)

2. Trust your TF100 tests as Pool store tests are usually so wrong you should never trust them.. They usually get the metals correct, did they say you have any copper or other metals in your water. (this will help when you change out your water)

3. CH: It is recommended to drain and refill but you will need to test your fill water to see what your CH is.. If it is high you may need to have low CH water trucked in.. If it is low then it is fine.. They probably used Calcium Hypochlorite (Cal-Hypo) to shock the pool and raise the CH...
High Calcium Levels
High Calcium levels in a plaster pool can easily create scale on the walls of the pool. In cases where calcium levels cannot be kept within TFP’s Ideal Levels a homeowner may need to use more advanced methods of pool care. Users with high Calcium Levels should read more about CSI to assist with their pool care. Additionally owners of Salt Water Generators who commonly have high calcium levels in their pools may see scale on their Salt Water cells.

CYA: We round up so yours would be 30 and your SWG is working overtime... If you have no Algae then take you CYA to 70 putting it in a sock or something like that and check in a couple days.. You can put it in 3/4 of recommended levels and test and then add the rest if you want...

Borax: We only recommend it if you really need it and know what it is going to do to your water... It seems your PH is fine so no need.

Liquid Chlorine: If needed I think you have a HASA dealer near you Dealer Locator | HASA Pool and they have 12% but normal store bleach without additives works also.

Great first post (y) :cheers:
 
  • Like
Reactions: BenB

bmoreswim

Mod Squad
Gold Supporter
Platinum Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 16, 2012
6,407
Central MD
Welcome to TFP! No worries on the FC test. When the pink changes to either clear or cloudy but white, that’s the change you are looking for. It has a relationship with your calcium as to why it’s not clear but that’s unimportant.

SWG salt readings can be reasonably accurate, unless they aren’t. Always rely on your drop test. Though mine was always within 200 from actual for 7 years. One sign a SWG is going bad is if it starts to read lower salt levels than actual. I overshot my salt this year because of that but no big deal so long at the SWG isn’t complaining. Salt will go down over time for you. It leaves your pool by splash out or if you have an overflow. It doesn’t get used up by the SWG process nor does it evaporate.

I run a similar pump schedule. Long and slow. I can go slower and still keep by SWG’s flow switch satisfied but then I don’t get the skimming action I desire so it’s not as slow as some people run theirs.
 

BenB

Gold Supporter
Jul 24, 2020
20
San Jose, CA
Thank you all so much for the quick replies and warm welcomes! :cheers:

did you make sure to test your water from elbow deep as well as making sure you're getting the test water from the appropriate place and not where the water comes out fresh from the SWG
Yes! I'm taking water elbow deep from the opposite side of the pool to the return jets, and readings were taken 90 minutes after the pump switched off for the night.

Take the Nature2 Fusion Soft cartridge out and never put it back in.
I actually asked the old owners if they had bothered replacing it (for this very reason!) and sadly they say they did in the last year or so. But I will definitely look into disabling or ditching it in the future. The Leslie's water test did check for certain metals but they were all very low, so no accumulation issues just yet.

It is recommended to drain and refill
So I suppose this is the big question. Is it necessary to do this 'right now', or is it something we can defer? Either until off-season due to the time it will take and environmental guilt I'd have about using 15,000 gallons of fresh water in the middle of the summer in California, or until we actually see some issues beyond some scaling at the water line? Since everything else seems to be ok right now, can this be a 'wait and see' or would you really recommend biting the bullet? It might be hard to explain to my wife that it needs doing if visually everything looks to be ok.

CYA: We round up so yours would be 30 and your SWG is working overtime
I will get started on it today!

Liquid Chlorine
I do have a dealer near me! But I may have missed the context for why you brought this up? Is it just for the one-off adjustments like the pool company are doing or was it linked with some other issue?

It has a relationship with your calcium as to why it’s not clear but that’s unimportant.
That makes a lot of sense. Thank you for clarifying (haha accidental bad pun)

SWG salt readings can be reasonably accurate, unless they aren’t.
If I drank coffee, I'd have spat it over my screen. I loved this :laughblue:

I don’t get the skimming action I desire
Uggh that's where I am. Two speed motor and on low I get through my pool water in a day, but the surface action really isn't that much. I had hoped it might be adjustable through the diverter valve in the skimmer, but when I looked it was broken off and missing entirely - so I think that means pulling mostly from the skimmer basket already?


Bonus pictures from this morning to show water clarity.
20200806_065539.jpg 20200806_065542.jpg
 

bmoreswim

Mod Squad
Gold Supporter
Platinum Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 16, 2012
6,407
Central MD
So your main drains are tied to your skimmers? If so, then yeah, that diverter would be important though I'm not familiar with them as ours are plumbed independently of the main drains so I can adjust the pull from the MD versus each of the skimmers. Not sure if they seal well or if they can be replaced.

If/when you have to replace your pump, definitely get a variable speed pump, then you can dial in your RPM's just like you want instead of being limited to low and high. Don't put any focus on turnover. Its about water clarity, SWG run time and skimming action. Achieve all three of those and you are good regardless o. Probably not your issue, but if a skimmer wier gets stuck in a downward position, it will not skim well as much of the water gets sucked in just below the surface level. I just had a sticky one (then it broke). It would get stuck down (and up). But when stuck down, skimming action is severely reduced, though water flow remains the same.
 
  • Like
Reactions: BenB

BenB

Gold Supporter
Jul 24, 2020
20
San Jose, CA
Ok so want to check whether I'm thinking about this right...

Despite CH of 1250, my current overall CSI is 0.34. Any time the pH creeps up, it shoots up and way over the 0.6 'safe limit'.

If I go ahead and bring up my CYA (as was planned anyway), then that will bring the CSI down below 0.3, and then if I maintain a pH on the lower end of the scale (so 7.2-7.5) and not let it creep up to 8, then despite the crazy high amount of calcium in the water, I should be ok?

Also, it seems that at lower temperatures, the CSI drops off quite a lot, so it's only a real concern at the height of summer when my water is 84+, or until I add heating?

So many variables to track!
 

BenB

Gold Supporter
Jul 24, 2020
20
San Jose, CA
So your main drains are tied to your skimmers?
I believe so! I'll feel around to see where suction is, but I believe yes my (single) skimmer has 2 ports at the bottom, where one of them is tied to the main drains.

Thanks for the tip on variable speed too. I'll definitely bear that in mind when the time comes. I'm too much of a cheapskate to be paying crazy electricity bills (would rather pay up front on the equipment!), so any efficiency savings that would come with greater control would also be great.
 

GDN

Bronze Supporter
Oct 17, 2016
450
Dallas, TX
I don't think you have to worry about the Nature 2 cartridge if it is very old. I've left my last one in for a couple of years now. I didn't know about this site in the beginning. I don't have salt, and have moved to liquid chlorine. I think I last repaced my cartride 2 years ago. They claim they only last 6 months, so I'm assuming everything has dissolved out of it and it is harmless. To take it out though you have to have the dummy lid to put in it's place. I don't have that so I just leave the old cartridge in, don't figure it is hurting a thing.

The interesting part about the Nature 2, I didn't know until about 3 months ago that it had a SWG that could go in it. I'd consider putting one in there for mine, but they don't integrate with Pentairs automation, so some day I will just replace the whole thing if I get tired of buying liquid chlorine.

With your own test kit and knowledge you already exhibit, it also sounds like you are really ready to jump in and manage this thing yourself. You'll get the best guidance and help here and if your current company is adding liquid and asking you to cut back on the SWG then something doesn't seem right, but I'll let the experts here come to your rescue on that.
 
  • Like
Reactions: BenB

bmoreswim

Mod Squad
Gold Supporter
Platinum Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 16, 2012
6,407
Central MD
With a positive CSI of .6, I’m surprised you aren’t experiencing scaling on the surface or grout lines. Or seeing flakes in the pool coming off of your SWG plates. You are lucky if you don‘t have that with the CH level you’ve been blessed with. I’m seeing some from mine with a CSI that sometimes gets to .2 before I add acid when I get remiss on my pool testing duties.
 

BenB

Gold Supporter
Jul 24, 2020
20
San Jose, CA
Hey everybody.

Thought I'd give an update on where we're at. I'm sure you're all just DYING to hear :rolleyes:

I've had a couple of weeks to get used to the TF-100 and perform a few tests, and here's where my water is at now. The main change is that I've upped the CYA and added BOR. So moving in the right direction in some respects, but the elephants in the room from before are still very much there....

FC 3 (trying to keep it up - it was 5 earlier in the week but these past 2 days sun has been crazy. The 3 is taken at 6pm right at the end of a scorching day, with swimming so I think pretty good going)
pH 7.7
TA 100
CH 1200
CYA 50
SALT 4000
BOR 30
CSI 0.57
TEMP 87F

There is definite scaling in the grout lines on the side tiles at the water level. I had originally thought it was salt deposits, but no... definitely scale. Also, with the really hot weather we've had this past week, it's only been worse than usual, especially these past couple of days.

Then I made the 'mistake' of deciding to peek at the salt cell to see what it looked like based on a comment up above. It's not pretty.
20200816_200353.jpg

How does that look on a scale of 1-terrible? I'm going to give it a mild acid bath to try and wash off the worst of it, and I was able to pull off the largest chunks by hand. It seems like it's a miracle that the chlorine production seems to be working regardless.

At this point, is there anything else to do other than plan a drain and refill to fix the excess calcium and salt in the water?
 

BenB

Gold Supporter
Jul 24, 2020
20
San Jose, CA
The acid wash went well. Bubbled for an almost an hour before it was clean. Reinstalled and we'll see how much chlorine it spits out today 😂
 

Dtkokay

Well-known member
Dec 31, 2019
303
Houston, Texas
I haven’t read this thread in super detail but it seems like you’re on the right track. A few things jumped out at me:

You’ll have to drain to lower your CH, no way around that. You’ll have to decide if it’s causing you issues.

Up your FC level. You’re way better off having too much FC than too little, and it’s safe to swim with an FC below the SLAM level. Don’t try to micromanage it within a narrow band. Just have a floor value and always keep it at or above that. In other words, don’t worry too much about the upper limit.

Think of your SWG as a way to maintain your FC, not for increasing FC. I use liquid chlorine if I need to quickly raise my FC.

Other than the high CH, looks like you’re in good shape though!
 
  • Like
Reactions: BenB

BenB

Gold Supporter
Jul 24, 2020
20
San Jose, CA
Thought I'd provide a little update, just because I'm in a sharing kind of mood.

So the SWG which was at 100% for a while before the wash is now dialled back to 40%. This past week with my CYA finally coming up to 70 after 2 additions in the past few weeks the chlorine stability has been great and the FC rose from 3 to 5 to 7.5 this morning and 8.5 by the end of the day despite it being quite a sunny day. My target would be 5 so I'm going to have a few swims this weekend and keep watching the % setting to see if it will level off and settle around the 7.5% target i.e. 5 or a little over.

Water temperature dropped a fair bit this week, down to 79deg now. pH, however has been creeping up. Today I tested an 8 pH so called it and added almost a full gallon (121oz) of 31.45% MA. Immediate effect - pH back down to 7.2 and TA reduced from 100 to 80. Sweet! All of that means my CSI is at 0 (slightly negative (-0.11) right now actually!).

I'm still in two minds about what to do with the water. On the one hand I'd like to get everything perfect, but on the other I seem to be managing everything else and now my CYA and BOR are dialled in, and my TA is manageable with acid, I might just leave it for the rest of the year since the only real harm I'm seeing is cosmetic.

Have a good weekend everyone! Thank you for the advice, I've been doing lots of bedtime reading of other people's threads and am learning a lot.
 
  • Like
Reactions: CraigChing